New Farm Vehicle Exemptions take effect Oct. 1

On July 6, President Obama signed into law H.R. 4348, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Included in the law were several exemptions relating to farm vehicles for farmers and ranchers.

The following regulations and exemptions take effect Oct. 1:

A covered farm vehicle, including the individual operating that vehicle, shall be exempt from the following federal requirements:

• Any requirement related to commercial driver’s licenses;

• Any requirement related to drug testing;

• Any requirement related to medical certificates;

• Any requirement related to hours of service; and

• Any requirement related to vehicle inspection, repair and maintenance.

In addition, federal transportation funding to a state may not be terminated, limited or otherwise interfered with as a result of the state exempting a covered farm vehicle, including the individual operating that vehicle, from any state requirement relating to the operation of that vehicle.

Exemptions do not apply to a covered farm vehicle transporting hazardous materials that require a placard.

A “covered farm vehicle” means a motor vehicle (including an articulated motor vehicle) that is traveling in the state in which it is registered or another state and is operated by:

• A farm owner or operator;

• A ranch owner or operator; or

• And employee or family member of an individual farmer or rancher.

The covered farm vehicle must be equipped with a special license plate or other designation by the state in which the vehicle is registered to allow for identification of the vehicle as a farm vehicle by law enforcement personnel.

The farm vehicle and the individual operating that vehicle are exempt from the above-mentioned requirements if the vehicle is less than 26,001 pounds. If the vehicle is greater than 26,001 pounds, the exemptions apply within the state or within 150 air miles of the farm or ranch.

It should be noted that this legislation does not specifically exempt a farmer or rancher from any state requirements. There are no longer federal requirements relating to the above-mentioned regulations. Additionally, funding from the federal government to a state cannot be withheld if a state chooses to allow exemptions for agriculture.

Included with the farm vehicle exemptions language was a directive to the secretary of transportation to conduct a safety study of the exemptions. Farm Bureau plans to work closely with the Department of Transportation as it conducts the study.

AFBF Supports Farm Truck Measures in Transportation Bill

AFBF President
Bob Stallman

The American Farm Bureau Federation is supporting measures to make certain farm vehicles exempt from federal motor vehicle regulations that are appropriately aimed at the long-haul trucking industry. AFBF is urging senators to support two amendments to the pending transportation bill (S. 1813).

The first amendment, introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would provide an exemption for farm trucks. That measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). If based solely on weight limits, even a one-ton pickup truck pulling a trailer could be subject to the long-haul regulations.

“The amendment is important because some states exempt farm vehicles while others do not,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “Under the current situation, merely the act of crossing state lines can trigger conflicting requirements for some farmers who are doing nothing more than hauling their own crop. These regulations can be particularly burdensome for farmers and ranchers living in counties bordering another state where their best market might be just across the state line.”

The second Farm Bureau-supported amendment to S. 1813 would exempt certain farm truck drivers from regulations on maximum driving and on-duty times during harvest and planting seasons. It is sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

“This measure is particularly crucial during the two busiest times of a farmer’s year,” Stallman said.

The amendment would apply to drivers transporting agricultural commodities within 100 miles of the farm that produced them, or those carrying farm supplies for agricultural purposes within 100 miles of the wholesale or retail distribution point. Each state would determine its own planting and harvest periods.

Clearing up ‘Farm Use’ Confusion

Hello! I am Andrew Smith, and I am Senior Assistant Director of Governmental Relations. One of the issues I handle for Virginia Farm Bureau is transportation.

I wanted to take a moment to let you know about a bill that passed this year in the General Assembly that we hope will clear up some confusion that began in 2010 when the legislature was attempting to limit the use of unregister farm vehicles (Farm Use) to the appropriate type of vehicles. In that year the types of vehicles were listed that are allowed to use the exemption with the intent to rule out the use on passenger vehicles.

In doing so, the language caused some confusion, even though when read properly, it was correct. To clarify the issue, the General Assembly passed House Bill 746 which breaks the vehicle types down with numerically as opposed to using commas which currently used in the “farm use” section of Virginia Code. This legislation passed both Chambers unanimously.

The wording that will be official beginning July 1 of this year will read:

“The provisions of this section shall only apply to (i) pickup trucks, (ii) panel trucks, (iii) sport utility vehicles, (iv) vehicles having a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 7,500 pounds, and (v) trailers and semitrailers.”
This language will appear in each of the appropriate Code sections. Even though this doesn’t change the meaning of the law, it is intended to make it easier to read and clear to the average person reading this Code section that benefits many in our industry.

Virginia Advances Coalfields Expressway and Route 58 Improvements in Western Virginia

Route 460 Connector Phase 1 Ceremonial Groundbreaking Breaks
 Interstate Park (Photo by Trevor Wrayton, VDOT)

From the Governor’s Office:
Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has reached agreements with its private-sector partners to advance the Coalfields Expressway and the Route 58 Corridor Improvement projects. Both of these projects will benefit transportation and economic development in western Virginia.

“When eventually completed, the Coalfields Expressway will provide a modern, safe and efficient highway through the coalfields region of southwestern Virginia, and will open the region to new economic development opportunities,” said Governor McDonnell. “Route 58 has long been envisioned as a means to stimulate economic development in southwest and southside Virginia. It will make the communities along Route 58 more accessible, speed travel times, and provide a direct freight link with Virginia’s port.”
VDOT and the new Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3) are advancing both of these projects under the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA). The PPTA allows VDOT to partner with the private sector to deliver projects quickly and more efficiently.
Funding for these projects is from the governor’s historic transportation package and was programmed into the Six-Year Improvement Program by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Coalfields Expressway
VDOT has negotiated a $3.8 million amendment to its existing PPTA contract with Alpha Natural Resources to begin preliminary engineering of the Pound Connector and Doe Branch sections of Coalfields Expressway.
Coalfields Expressway – U.S. Route 121 – is a proposed four-lane highway stretching approximately 49 miles from Pound in Wise County through Dickinson and Buchanan counties to the West Virginia state line.
The Doe Branch section ties the Route 460 Connector Phase II and Hawks Nest in Buchanan County and travels west to Route 80 in the Haysi area of Dickinson County, about 4.8 miles. The Pound Connector is about 6.8 miles, beginning at Route 23 in the Pound area of Wise County and extends into Dickinson County where it will connect to Route 83 via a connector road.
Last July, VDOT completed the first section of rough grade road bed for the Coalfields Expressway. Alpha Natural Resources constructed the rough grade road bed at a cost of $10 million, a savings to VDOT of over $90 million by coordinating the road bed development on mountainous terrain as part of an active surface mining operation.
Route 58 Corridor Improvements
VDOT negotiated a $119.75 million amendment under its existing PPTA contract with Branch Highways Inc. to build the next phase of Route 58 improvements along the 36-mile corridor between Hillsville and Stuart.
Under the PPTA agreement, construction is expected to begin in spring 2012 to widen 8.2 miles of Route 58 between Meadows of Dan and Laurel Fork. This project is referred to as the Tri-County (3.2 miles) and Laurel Fork (5 miles) sections of Route 58.
The Route 58 Corridor from Hillsville to Stuart is the last remaining section to complete the widening of Route 58 from Virginia Beach to I-77.
In December 2003, VDOT signed a public-private partnership agreement with Branch Highways Inc. to develop and widen 36 miles of the Route 58 Corridor from Hillsville to Stuart as funding became available. The corridor begins southwest of Hillsville and continues east through Carroll, Floyd, and Patrick counties to approximately one mile west of Stuart.
The first phase of widening Route 58 under this contract, a three-mile Blue Ridge Parkway crossing at Meadows of Dan, was completed in May 2006. The second phase of widening, the $83-million Hillsville Bypass, was opened to traffic in August 2011.